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Israeli official: Several outposts to be dismantled

Palestinian Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas, left,  President Bush and Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon speak after meeting at Wednesday's summit in Jordan.
Palestinian Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas, left, President Bush and Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon speak after meeting at Wednesday's summit in Jordan.

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JERUSALEM (CNN) -- Following Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's pledge Wednesday to remove "unauthorized outposts," a senior Israeli official could not say how many of them will be dismantled immediately, only that the number will be several.

At the Jordan peace summit with President Bush and Palestinian Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas, Sharon said Israel understands "the importance of territorial contiguity in the West Bank for a viable Palestinian state."

"In regard to the unauthorized outposts, I want to reiterate that Israel is a society governed by the rule of law," Sharon said. "Thus we will immediately begin to remove unauthorized outposts." (Full story)

Settlers planning a demonstration Wednesday night in Jerusalem erected a sign on the back of the event's stage that said: "Oslo lesson: No to a Palestinian state." The sign referred to the Oslo peace process that began in 1993 but fizzled by the end of the decade. Thousands of people are expected to attend the rally.

When asked about the settlers' reaction, the Israeli official replied, "No one said it is going to be easy."

Legal authorities as well as the Israeli Defense Ministry and army will determine which outposts will be dismantled, the official said.

The Israeli group Peace Now estimates that 68 of 116 new outposts set up adjacent to existing settlements were erected since Sharon took office in March 2001.

Calling the summit "very good," the official said the Israelis and Palestinians are "exploring several avenues together ... including how to create contiguity when you create a provisional Palestinian state."

As for the next move, the official said each side needs to go back and face "its own challenges" and see the "extent to which there will be a real commitment."


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